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Enjoy a seven-mile circular nature walk from Tesco in Bishop's Stortford around Hadham Lodge, Upwick Green, Hadham Hall and Stocking Wood





Nature Notes columnist Jono Forgham covers your fortnightly look at nature around Bishop's Stortford…

Following on from my last wander, when the light conspired against me over two days, I was pleased to note that a week last Monday was forecast to be cold but with bright sunshine. Perfect conditions for a long wander upon frozen footpaths, so I parked the car at Tesco, loaded up with a double espresso and headed off along Duke's Ride and Knight's Close. This leads to a path that crosses the bypass and onto a public footpath. This path runs adjacent to Great Plantings Wood, before arriving at a wider track.

Here I turned right and, almost immediately, plenty of bird species began alarm calling. I could hear jays, magpies, blue tits, great tits, wrens and blackbirds, and presumed either a large mammal was in the wood or a roosting tawny owl had been discovered at its daytime tree hole.

Blue tit (62053664)
Blue tit (62053664)

A quick binocular scan gave the answer as I literally caught the tail end of a fox sauntering along. A good start and much improved soon after when a magnificent male bullfinch sat atop the hedgerow until, that is, I raised my camera. Off it shot, giving its diagnostic call, reminiscent of a squeaky gate.

I went under the A120 and headed up the concrete path towards Hadham Lodge. Redwings in the horse field and good stands of recently opened snowdrops. Wonderful to see as I picked up a footpath just before the pond, having noticed several well-placed bat boxes on the trees that line the driveway.

Several forlorn mallards slipped and skidded their way towards me in the hope I had food. When it was apparent that I did not, they all halted and just remained motionless upon the ice. Ducks have very few nerves or blood vessels in their webbed feet, so standing upon ice is not a hardship for them.

Mallards on a frozen pond (62053981)
Mallards on a frozen pond (62053981)

The path runs alongside High Wood and then Bloodhound's Wood. From deep inside these oak and hornbeam woodlands came the sound of great spotted woodpeckers calling and drumming. The latter is a territorial signal, common in late January and February as each male establishes a territory before attracting a female. The male can be readily identified as it has a red band around the back of the neck. In the female of this species, the band is white.

A common buzzard circled overhead as I picked up the track north of the large metal barn. A treecreeper wandered up a dead branch, probing holes in the wood for insects and arachnids, whilst a robin flew from a hedge onto the frosty grass, checked me out and promptly dashed back into the cover of the hedge. This track winds its way to Farnham Lane, running alongside winter wheat and bean fields, with both crops somewhat on hold at present due to the nighttime temperatures.

A solitary lapwing winged its way towards Hadham Hall, visible in the distance, but this part of the walk didn't offer the hoped-for yellowhammers that often frequent the hedges here.

A left turn onto the lane before another left turn at the Upwick Hall entrance had me heading back south. A female chaffinch sat in a good spot for a photo as I crossed the bridge over the bypass and soon found myself in the grounds of Hadham Hall. Recently, a large herd of fallow deer must have trotted along the path as there were many slots (hoofprints) in the semi-solid mud.

Female chaffinch (62053884)
Female chaffinch (62053884)

Much restoration of the pond here has been undertaken recently and it was good to see the water level back to its usual depth. Some impressive environmental work has taken place on a promontory of land where good-sized log piles, new plants and ferns have been dug in along with well-placed benches. All very professionally completed. Good to see.

Along the driveway there were plenty more winter thrushes in the field that, many years ago, was Little Hadham's cricket pitch. These fieldfares and redwings will remain here until mid-April and today they were scavenging the grasslands.

I crossed the road and turned into Millfield Lane just in time to catch sight of a bullfinch pair heading off over the fields. Such tricky birds to photograph as they are a very secretive and wary species.

Millennium Wood, time for a scenic picnic (62054023)
Millennium Wood, time for a scenic picnic (62054023)

I thought that Millennium Wood would be an ideal spot for my picnic, so over the cattle grid by the Silver Leys Polo Club sign and into the wood on my left. This is a wood where I continue to monitor all aspects of the natural history as well as carry out environmental enhancements, such as coppicing the hazel, keeping the paths clear and planting many species of wild flowers in the hope of attracting more insect species.

Last year, I recorded two new species for the wood - a rare hoverfly for Herts and a willow emerald damselfly. This was only first recorded within Herts in 2004, so really pleasing that it has already discovered the pond I dug back in 2018. Hope it laid eggs here and becomes a resident species.

Long-tailed tit (62053951)
Long-tailed tit (62053951)

I sat on the bench overlooking the frozen pond. Long-tailed tits flitted through the branches and jays argued raucously whilst blue tits posed for photos. Such a peaceful place and always something to see. Snowdrops were in full bloom under a large and ancient ash tree. Back in 1999 this was the only tree in the field until 2,000 whips were planted by local residents to mark the new millennium.

Once the picnic was complete, I took the lane through Bury Green, headed down Lower Farm Road and picked up a footpath that runs through the garden of a house called Tomways. This leads, via a field where a pair of donkeys watched me intently, to Stocking Wood.

One of the two Bury Green donkeys (62054030)
One of the two Bury Green donkeys (62054030)

It is this wood that I have recently completed a 65-page report on all aspects of lepidoptera species found within it over the last few decades. Twenty-six species of butterfly and 400-plus moth species make it an important local woodland and, over the next few months, myself and a team of volunteers will be carrying out enhancement work in an attempt to attract more species, particularly purple emperor and white admiral butterflies. A first primula was noted here, yet to flower but in good leaf.

The stream that the path follows was flowing full and fast as I crossed a footbridge and headed back towards the bypass, onto some open fields that deposited me by a pond next to Hillmead school. As I exited the field onto the bypass, a superb stand of buckthorn berries in the hedgerow, a favourite food of bullfinches, but obviously this laden bush has yet to be discovered by them.

Buckthorn berries (62053761)
Buckthorn berries (62053761)

Goldfinches called from trees as I approached Burghley Way. This road is always good for suburban bird species and, as I headed back to Tesco, I saw 50-plus starlings, both populating television aerials and flying en masse to local trees.

On another aerial a rook eyed me suspiciously, its silver-grey, dagger-shaped bill helping distinguish it from the similarly-plumaged carrion crow that sports a dark bill. Just to aid identification, upon the next roof was, indeed, a carrion crow. House sparrows chatted away to each other from deep in a bush whilst a pied wagtail marched merrily along a house roof.

Starlings (62054087)
Starlings (62054087)

I arrived back at the car after 7.4 miles of a really good walk. Tuesday dawned bright, so I headed back to the Hadham Lodge area to improve upon a few photos, and at High Wood both a goldcrest and treecreeper zipped about, far too fast for my camera in what were hazy light conditions.

All in all, a wonderful wander and I was glad that the temperature didn't rise to above 4C as the frozen mud would have started to thaw and become very sticky indeed.

Bat box (62053651)
Bat box (62053651)
Carrion crow (62053763)
Carrion crow (62053763)
Environmental enhancement at Hadham Hall (62053880)
Environmental enhancement at Hadham Hall (62053880)
First primula pushing through (62053935)
First primula pushing through (62053935)
Goldfinch (62053943)
Goldfinch (62053943)
Pied wagtail (62054042)
Pied wagtail (62054042)
Redwing (62054060)
Redwing (62054060)
Robin (62054065)
Robin (62054065)
Rook (62054071)
Rook (62054071)
Snowdrops at Hadham Lodge (62054077)
Snowdrops at Hadham Lodge (62054077)
Treecreeper (62054092)
Treecreeper (62054092)

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